On Wednesday at the Microsoft Future Decoded conference in London, executives from the tech giant laid out a vision for integrating Microsoft 365, Microsoft HoloLens, Windows Mixed Reality, and 3D capabilities into modern workplaces to aid digital transformation.
In particular, mixed reality has the potential to allow workers and enterprises to be more productive, according to a blog post from Lorraine Bardeen, general manager of Microsoft HoloLens and Windows Experiences.
"Mixed reality has the potential to help customers and businesses across the globe do things that until now, have never been possible," Bardeen wrote in the post. "Mixed reality experiences will help businesses and their employees complete crucial tasks faster, safer, more efficiently, and create new ways to connect to customers and partners."
As the nature of work changes in the digital era, it is increasingly defined through creative problem solving and collaboration, rather than menial tasks, Bardeen wrote—creating demand for technology to support these new ways of working.
SEE: Virtual and augmented reality policy template (Tech Pro Research)
Firstline workers and information workers will likely be the first to benefit from mixed reality in the workplace, according to Bardeen.
Firstline workers—including sales associates, medical staff, customer service professionals, and factory workers—make up 2 billion members of the workforce globally. They often serve as the first point of contact between a business and its customers, or are directly involved in making products and delivering services. However, they have largely been underserved by technology, Bardeen noted. "Without them, the ambitions of many organizations could not be brought to life," she wrote. "Mixed reality is poised to help them work together, problem solve, and communicate in more immersive ways."
At Microsoft Ignite in September, CEO Satya Nadella announced that Microsoft 365 was coming to firstline workers worldwide, along with less expensive Windows 10 S devices.
Mixed reality will also help information workers collaborate more easily, as well as work remotely both synchronously and asynchronously. "With mixed reality workers can change the content, the people, or even the location of a meeting, in a matter of seconds," Bardeen wrote. "Mixed reality delivers interfaces that help workers act upon data generated from instrumented/intelligence devices, and connect seamlessly with others across physical space."
Firstline and information workers are already using mixed reality to get work done, tapping Remote Assist to work with a remote expert to accomplish tasks in real-time, creating customized first-person perspective training manuals, designing spaces virtually, and creating mixed reality meetings that allow team members to join in real-time or asynchronously, bring in 2D and 3D content, with flexibility to change the location at any time.
This plan marks another move for Microsoft further into the augmented reality (AR) space. The tech giant also announced on Wednesday that the HoloLens would expand into 29 new European markets, bringing the total number of HoloLens markets to 39. And in October, Microsoft announced the launch of Microsoft Reactor in San Francisco—the flagship hub for the tech giant's efforts in AR.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
1. At the Microsoft Future Decoded conference in London, executives from the tech giant offered a vision for integrating Microsoft 365, Microsoft HoloLens, Windows Mixed Reality, and 3D capabilities into modern workplaces to aid digital transformation.
2. Firstline workers and information workers will likely be the first to benefit from mixed reality in the workplace, using the technology for collaboration, training, and more.
3. Microsoft has made a number of moves into the mixed reality space recently, including expanding its HoloLens headset into new European markets.
- Executive's guide to the business value of VR and AR (free ebook) (TechRepublic)
- AR to be key to business, as VR lands with consumers, says IDC (ZDNet)
- Oculus Rift: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- Virtual, augmented reality developers gravitate to HTC Vive, Oculus Rift (ZDNet)
- Build 30 Mini Virtual Reality Games in Unity 3D From Scratch (TechRepublic)
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.